Source: The Hudson Reporter
When Joamelly Arteaga started to get nosebleeds as a young girl, nobody suspected she was suffering from lupus.
“They didn’t know what she had,” said her father Armando Hernandez, a resident of West New York, who after his daughter’s death two years ago established the Lupus Y Latinos Foundation in Union City to help raise awareness.
“Lupus is called ‘The Great Imitator’ because its symptoms mimic other diseases.”
By definition, lupus is an acute and chronic autoimmune disease. The immune system becomes unbalanced, causing inflammation and tissue damage to nearly any organ in the body – including the lungs, kidneys, heart, brain, even the skin.
There are three types of lupus. The most common, and the most serious, affects various parts of the body. Less common is a version that appears as a rash on face, scalp or skin. Both of these affect women primarily. A third kind most common in men is triggered by some medicines, and is usually milder and goes away when medicine is discontinued.
Symptoms are so varied they are often mistaken for symptoms of other diseases: extreme fatigue, headaches, painful or swollen joints, fever, anemia, swelling, pain in the chest when breathing deeply, a butterfly rash across cheeks and nose, sensitively to sunlight, hair loss, abnormal blood clotting, fingers turning white or blue when cold, and mouth or nose ulcers.
Lupus is two to three times more common among African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans. Yet a recent survey concluded that nearly three out of four Hispanics and more than half of African Americans know little or nothing about the disease.
Fortunately, things have gotten better. In 2011, the Federal Drug Administration approved the first drug for treatment of lupus. The survival rate has also improved. In 1948, nearly half of those suffering from Lupus didn’t survive to age 50. Today, Hernandez said, the five-year survival rate is 90 percent, and those living 20 years or more with the disease is about 80 percent.
The earlier the disease is detected, the better the survival rate. This, of course, means educating the public. Groups such as Daddy’s Sunshine – a Jersey City-based group honored recently by the Hudson County Freeholders and the Jersey City Council – are joining The Lupus Y Latinos Foundation in trying to make the public aware of the disease.
Daddy’s Sunshine will hold its first Lupus Walk on Sunday, May 17 from 8 to 10 a.m. in Lincoln Park in Jersey City to raise funds and awareness to fight the disease. Click here to donate.